Investment Management After Top MBA - Does Pre-MBA Experience Matter?

Hello everyone,

I'm a couple years into my career in corporate finance at an F100. I have my sights set on an M7 MBA later on, and I am interested in pursuing investment management in equities afterwards.

I know that top MBA programs do have recruitment for funds like PIMCO, Fidelity, Wellington, BlackRock, etc, and I'd like to target those, but I am worried that they would expect pre-MBA investment experience in something like Equity Research, IB, or even Investment Management itself.

Can I go from corporate finance > M7 MBA > IM or is it a long shot without prior investment experience? If I move from corporate finance to, say, corporate treasury, development, or strategy (all possibilities right now) before going for my MBA, would that help? What if I also completed my CFA?


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Comments (21)

Jun 20, 2018

ApolloEast, bummer your thread hasn't had a response yet. Maybe one of these threads could point you in the right direction:

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  • More suggestions...

No promises, but thought I'd mention a few relevant users that work in the industry: @dzelinski @jpc100 @JIbiyooye

If those topics were completely useless, don't blame me, blame my programmers...

Jun 28, 2018


Jun 28, 2018

You can make the jump just fine if you're interested and talented. Might be easier if you played to your previous strength, I.e. go for an equity research position in the sector that you worked in at the f100 company.

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Jun 29, 2018

That's good to hear, thanks. Also, follow-up - can one realistically transition between fixed income and equity specialization for portfolio management, or is pigeonholing a thing for asset classes?

Jun 30, 2018

Harder, but not impossible. When you say portfolio management, do you mean portfolio analyst or portfolio manager? IMO fixed income portfolio analysts add a lot more value than equity portfolio analysts. This is purely because of the asset class characteristics. Personally, I prefer research, but to each their own. Portfolio analysis is a good career path with great hours and good compensation.

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Jun 30, 2018

I'm leaning towards portfolio manager, but my interest in IM stems more from fundamental maybe I should give portfolio analysis/research a stronger look. The idea of having skin in the game a la a portfolio manager role is appealing, though.

Ultimately, I'm interested in the qualitative aspect of portfolio management. I thought that equity analysis more so than fixed income analysis would require a more holistic view of an industry - how it interacts with other industries, the differentiation among firms that comprise it, and the effects that macro events and factors have on it. I'm obviously not an expert here, though. Why do you think that fixed income portfolio analysis adds more value than equity analysis?

Jun 30, 2018

You've got to worry about duration, yield curve, etc. Also, credit spreads tend to move in tandem with each other, broadly speaking. And I'm not talking about 1 or 2 day risk off moves, I'm talking about systematic trends. Ex. look at BAML's IG credit spread index. Credits will move tighter and wider together. If you're interested in qualitative, you should do research instead. Portfolio managers do have to decide if the investment thesis makes sense, but they are also very focused on whether the investment makes sense in the broader portfolio.

Jun 30, 2018

What is a career path like for research? For equities, I assume it is an equity research associate prior to an MBA, and an equity analyst afterwards? Also, how would I decide on buy-side versus sell-side research? Are required qualifications different for each?

Jun 30, 2018

Yes for career path, maybe you don't need mba, but many have it. I could be wrong on this, but what I would do would be: Buyside 2-3 years, then sellside 2-3 years, then decide which lifestyle you prefer. I say start on buyside to be exposed to more sectors / subsectors. Then you will know which subsector you want to specialize in when you go to the sellside. I think it's important to learn how to go really deep on a few names and do the grunt work that buyside normally passes off to sellside. And sellside also gives you a higher chance at getting a job at a hedgefund. Not necessarily because your skills are better than buyside, but simply because they're reading your research and have an idea of how good you are, and also you're interacting with them. Then afterwards for me personally, I would go for buyside, but sellside is a good gig, but is more marketing focus at the higher levels.

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Jul 10, 2018

I recently graduated from a non-target in May. I have an interview for a CDO portfolio administrator role coming up. My ultimate goal is to become an analyst in equities or Fixed income (I've traded equities for the past 3 years and don't know if i'd enjoy FI/structured credit more/less). Would this CDO role give me a good footing in the industry and allow me to make the switch to equities? I've been told many times that FI > equities is much easier than the inverse.

I'd appreciate any insight you have. Also, sorry for butting in.

Jul 10, 2018

The skills learned from the Portfolio Administrator role aren't relevant in pretty much anyway to what your goal job requires or looks for from a candidate. With that being said, if I saw that you worked there for like 2 or 3 years and that you significantly improved processes, I would give you an interview to see if you're smart enough to do the job and driven enough to succeed but for a 30% less than what other FO analysts are demanding. Would still be a pay bump (I would assume) to your current role, but yea. Not many people think this way, and HR in particular usually won't give you the benefit of the doubt. Would be easier to break into a wealth management firm and then pivot to equity or fixed income. But you could've done that straight out of undergraduate rather than taking this portfolio administration job.


Jul 11, 2018

Seen it done but depends how the company is re internal mobility, diff companies have v different approaches to it.

Jul 11, 2018

Could I PM you the job posting and you could maybe give me your two cents?

Jul 12, 2018


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Jun 30, 2018

I have other comments related to this advice.

First, if you get into M7 and pursue IM you will have a good amount of IM recruiting activity in and around your school. So that's a very nice positive.

How do you close the deal? Know companies, have opinions on stocks. Choose an industry and do deep research. Come to an interview and have a thesis ready.

Do this instead of a CFA.

It's a small incremental positive to move to a treasury/development/strategy position. The best corporate job to land would be with the in house pension team, if it exists.

Much more important to know companies and have educated opinions. We don't want broad, that comes with time and experience. Give us deep.

Jun 30, 2018

I should have at least a couple of years before I go for my MBA (although I've already taken my GMAT and got a high enough score), so I can focus on both if it helps. Do you have any suggestions for resources as far as performing "deep research" goes? Should I get my hands on some sell-side equity research reports and start thoroughly following an industry, or maybe read some books on equity analysis? I would hope that an M7 MBA would at least get me interviews, so if I can show that I have knowledge I could have a good shot regardless of how relevant my prior finance experience was.

Jul 11, 2018

An M7 MBA gives you a better shot at banking or sell-side ER than the buy side. End of the day the buy side (PE or AM or HF) care ALOT about prior experience. With that said, it isn't impossible to go to the buy side without prior experience after an MBA, it's just very unlikely as spots are extremely competitive and extreme limited.

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Most Helpful
Jul 11, 2018

Current sell-side equity research associate looking to pursue M7 and investment management. I've wanted to work at a value asset manager since undergrad, and have made most of my career decisions with this in mind. I'm going to disagree with a lot of what's been said in the thread so far.

To answer your initial question, yes Pre-MBA experience matters a lot. Here's part of a post from a Columbia MBA student that posted AMA: Reflections On 1st Semester At Columbia Business School. This was posted 3 years ago, and the IM industry has continued to see headwinds with fee compression due to passive investing. MIFID II is causing the sell-side to restructure with sell-siders also competing for the smaller available pool of positions on the buy side.


dabears92: I would also note that investment management, relatively speaking, seems to be the "hottest" and most desired industry at Columbia. I believe this is driven by two factors: 1) top mutual funds and hedge funds don't interview people without relevant experience, so people that worked in industries outside finance (i.e. Consulting, Operations, Technology, Manufacturing, General Management) will not get interviews, even if they network extensively (caveat: some MBB consultants, for example, a female friend of mine who attended HYP and worked at MBB, do get interviews. Also, certain URM and Veteran applicants are offered some additional flexibility). My most impressive classmates (HYP undergrad, Goldman TMT, Mega-Fund PE) are almost exclusively interested in top mutual funds & hedge funds, and set an extremely high bar for recruiting. 2) the positions are extremely hard to get. For example, for 1st round interview slots, Eaton Vance has 13 slots. Also, whereas Goldman Sachs will hire tens of people from Columbia this year for internship positions, the elite mutual funds / hedge funds have an entire associate class of 2-3. MFS will likely hire 2-3 Summer Associates and recruit at all of the M7 (at least to my understanding, I know for sure they recruit at Harvard, Wharton, Sloan and Columbia). Just from Harvard, 100 people applied to MFS for a summer internship. Do the math - the numbers are quite daunting and competitive.

I posted a similar question, but from my situation here. A lot of good advice in the thread, with the takeaway being despite that I'm in a solid position with sell-side ER experience, high test scores, etc. it's still an uphill battle.
I know you said the MBA is down the line so you may still have time for a job switch before. Sit for the CFA and look for any available sell-side ER jobs in your current industry.

I don't agree with the career path @SomePleb laid out. The sell-side is currently in limbo, and no one knows exactly how ER will turn out. If you hypothetically do MBA -> few years buy-side -> you'll be around 30, and you'll be entering a declining industry as an associate with little to no room to become the lead analyst given the sell-side changes I've discussed so far.

While I don't mean to discourage you, I think it's good to have a clear idea what the industry looks like. Gone are the days where active management could always see flows since they were the main way to access the markets. There will always be a place for active management, but just know you'll be competing against qualified people for a limited number of seats. My main point is that you have to know to your core that you want to work in fundamental research because it will take a lot of time to catch up to speed, sit for the CFA (potentially 900+ hours to complete all 3 levels), and develop your own framework for understanding and valuing a company. I'm only a little further on the journey than you, and it's quite a daunting task.

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Jul 11, 2018

I'm finishing up my second year in S&T (credit sales at GS/MS/JPM) and will be starting at a top MBA program in the fall (Wharton/Columbia). Will getting into a top AM program or HF for research or portfolio management still be very difficult? I'm thinking fixed income is the way to go, since that is my current background, but will the competition from the top tier M&A bankers/MF PE guys make this exceedingly hard?

Jul 20, 2018
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Aug 17, 2018
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